Siddiq Barmak's 2003 drama Osama is significant for being the first feature-length film shot in Afghanistan since the Taliban outlawed movie production in 1996, and what more fitting subject than the terror of life under Taliban rule? Marina Golbahari stars as a pre-teen girl in Kabul whose widowed mother disguises her as a boy so that she can work and save the family from starvation. This ploy, however, brings with it heavy responsibilities and new fears, all shouldered by a pensive girl whose society tells her that she isn't good for anything.
Osama is an excellent addition to the tradition in world cinema of naturalistic humanist dramas about children coping with difficult environments; its storytelling is simple and direct, extracting great emotion from studying Golbahari's overwhelmed eyes as she struggles to suppress her reactions to the world in which she lives, a world in which even salvation is just another form of damnation. At a few key moments, Barmak attempts to introduce some clumsily stylish, subjective editing, and the result is jarring rather than expressionistic, over-emphasizing ideas that needed no embellishment; in this way, Osama feels, at times, like a remarkably assured student film from an understandably undeveloped cultural scene, but this roughness adds genuine value to the film as an important political and anthropological marker.
Osama was brought to my Potluck Film Fest by Flickcharter Mike Seaman, who can be found on Flickchart under the username Celldweller7. He ranks it on his chart at #147 / 2317 (94%), making it his 4th favorite Childhood Drama out of 23. Osama ranked on my Flickchart at #543 (86%), putting it at #15 on my chart of 37 Childhood Dramas.
As movies are added to this list, I'll add them to Letterboxd, here: